RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas – The Rio Grande Valley is experiencing a high number of HIV cases, according to health experts.
Many local organizations are teaming up to bring awareness about the HIV epidemic.
Around 2,300 people are living with HIV in the Rio Grande Valley according to recent studies. Texas Health officials are calling this an HIV epidemic.
Local groups, including Planned Parenthood, are joining the fight against HIV by bringing awareness and free medical exams to the community.
“We also want to break barriers that we know that a lot of people here in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, specifically in Cameron County, don’t have access to health care, so Planned Parenthood wants to break that barrier at least by providing this type of exam completely free for today,” said Paula Saldana, Planned Parenthood Lead Patient Navigator.
Health experts say every year around 100-120 people are diagnosed with HIV. Many people don’t know they are positive for the virus until it’s too late.
City Commissioner Nurith Pizana took an HIV test and stresses the importance of getting tested frequently, “It’s now a condition that people can live a long productive healthy life, so the earlier you get tested for it if you are positive, the earlier you can start treating it.”
The HIV epidemic isn’t only here in the Rio Grande Valley, but also along the Texas-Mexico border.
A doctor from Matamoros says there are around 900 cases of people living with HIV there, and many patients from the U.S. are seeking treatment on the Mexican side of the border.
“We also have patients that live in Brownsville that go over to get treatment from us because they are bi-national persons since they’re Mexican’s also, they have a right to get the free treatments from us,” said Carlos Alberto Carrillo Garza, a Matamoros Doctor.
Regardless of which side of the border HIV strikes, health professionals say it’s important to take the proper precautions to avoid getting infected and if tested positive, to get treated promptly.
Earlier this week, Planned Parenthood accepted a proclamation from the mayor and the City of Brownsville to recognize December as HIV and Aid’s awareness month.